The Basilica of St Mary Major in Rome begins a week of events today, to commemorate the miracle of the snowfall that occurred during the night of August 4-5 in the year 358. According to tradition, the Virgin Mary appeared in a dream to two faithful Roman Christians, the patrician John and his wife, as well as to Pope Liberius (352-366), asking that a church be built in her honour on the site where snow would fall on the night of August 4-5. Pope Liberius traced the outlines of the church in the snow and the first basilica was built on that site. It was completed about a century later by Pope Sixtus III (432-440), after the Council of Ephesus in 431 during which Mary was declared to be the Mother of God. During the triduum, or three days of preparation for the feast, there will be a daily recitation of the Rosary and meditation on its mysteries. The author of the meditations is Fr Gabriele Caranta, rector of the Shrine of St Mary of the Gold in Terni, Italy. The Masses, one on each day of the triduum, will be celebrated by: Cardinal Sergio Sebastiani, president of the Prefecture for Economic Affairs of the Holy See, Archbishop Paolo Romeo, apostolic nuncio to Italy, and Cardinal Agostino Cacciavillan, president emeritus of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See. The feast of August 4 will begin with the recitation of the Rosary, followed by vespers presided by Cardinal Bernard Law, archpriest of the basilica, and,Mass celebrated by Bishop Domenico Sigalini of Palestrina, Italy. The morning of August 5 will open with the recitation of the Liturgy of the Hours, after which Cardinal Law will preside at the pontifical Mass. The afternoon's celebrations include the recitation of the Rosary, second vespers presided by Cardinal Law, and Mass celebrated by Bishop Lorenzo Chiarinelli of Viterbo, Italy. During the pontifical Mass and the second vespers, a traditional shower of flower petals will descend from the ceiling of the basilica. Source: VIS
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